Thursday, 24 November 2016

Coffee chat with Aussie author Karen J Carlisle

Good morning everyone! It's Thursday, and that means I'm inviting another Aussie author into my virtual café. Firstly, I can't believe how many people are not coffee drinkers! Maybe I should invite authors around for a glass of wine instead.
Today's coffee chat is with Karen J Carlisle. She is an Adelaide writer, artist, gardener, chocoholic, and tea lover. Karen writers speculative fiction including steampunk, Victorian mystery, and fantasy.
DL: Firstly, since this a virtual coffee chat, how do you have your coffee? Are you a morning or afternoon person?

KAREN: Coffee doesn’t agree with me. Do you mind if I make mine a hot cup of tea instead? Black. No sugar, please. When I was a kid, my great granddad used to make us tea and tell us stories of ‘home’, in a thick Scot accent. I remember him each time I have a cup, so it’s just not a steampunk thing.

I’m not a morning person. I struggle to function before 9 am. A good cup of tea helps. I’m more of a night owl and have been known to still be writing at 1 am (which possibly explains my morning issues).

DL: I love steampunk, and this looks like a great series. Your first series is based on Jack The Ripper. Is it difficult to come up with new adventures for your characters?

KAREN: Yes and no. (Don’t you love ambiguous answers.)

I need a spark to set me off – a title, a thought, an atmosphere, a ‘what if’ – then I’m off. Once I immerse myself in the research, I get more ideas and I can start twisting history into my alternate version.

There are those serendipitous moments when the idea just pops up. Sometimes it’s a title, sometimes a scene or a set of clues. Sometimes it is just a feeling – an atmosphere I want to create.

With Doctor Jack, I was watching a Jack the Ripper documentary and ‘wondered what if my Men in Grey had a hand in the whole affair?’ The story snowballed from there. With Eye of the Beholder, it was an Ancient Egypt documentary. The Victorians loved Egypt. Point of View is a short story told from the maid’s point of view. It was inspired by a documentary on the ‘below stairs’ of Victorian life. I used it as an exercise - writing in only one point of view for the entire story.

Unfortunately, ideas sometimes need to be pried out of my brain so I delve into my Ideas Box, full of snippets scribbled on paper. (You know those ideas you get at 3am in the morning, or in the shower?)

Currently, I’m compiling notes for the next book. I had no idea what hook I could use for the featured novella. I wrote a list of ‘very Victorian’ things to find something to inspire me. Now I’m researching 19thcentury illusionists, which has sparked off some unpleasant situations for the characters.

DL: Do you plot your series, and when you determine the "stakes" for your character, i.e. what they risk to reach their goal, do you reflect on personal experience or look at others' experiences?

KAREN: I must admit I’m more of a pantser than a plotter, which is probably why I take so long to finish one book. I do jot down copious notes on ideas to use for a story - a small list of main crisis points (explosions, murders), specific clues to be included, and I usually have a vague idea of how I want the story to end.
Sticky note plot board (c) Karen J Carlisle
I had tried detailed story planning - scene by scene - but I froze; it felt like I was trapped, triggering my anxiety. Now I use sticky notes on the cupboard, making it easier to order ideas, ditch them or add new ones as I go. My stories seldom resemble the original vision.

Some of their sticky situations have stemmed from personal experiences. I started writing again to face some daemons in my life. The writing was cathartic. Now it’s a compulsion. I have to write. I see the world in a different light (possibly coloured from a steady diet of ‘whodunits’, science fiction and fantasy over the years).

Ideas also come from documentaries, news items or research.

DL: I noticed that your book is featured in the Halloween Comic Con. I love the idea of a Halloween Comic Con. How did that come about?

KAREN: A group of local indie authors and comic book creators got together for a chat, after one of the local pop conventions, to brainstorm ways we could connect locally with our readers, ‘get our names known’ and maybe sell more books. Many of us can’t afford to travel interstate at this time. Darren Kaziol, of Decay Comics, convinced the organisers of the Flinders Street Markets to let us take over their space for a weekend. This is our second year.

DL: And last question, what is your favourite biscuit and/or cake at the moment?

KAREN: I have a savoury tooth. I’m quite partial to Lemon Crisp biscuits. They’re both tangy and salty. And I do love a rich chocolate cake with thick chocolate icing.

Thanks so much for dropping into my virtual café for a cup of tea.
About the books

The Adventures of Viola Stewart

A Victorian Steampunk Mystery Series

Murder, mummies, mystery and a secret society plotting to take over The Empire.
The Adventures of Viola Stewart – introduces Viola Stewart, a widowed optician with a penchant fordetectiving, who stumbles upon a secret Society of Men in Grey. This Victorian Mystery series is set in a steampunk fantasy world and has a gaslamp flavour.
Author appearances
17th December, 2016: Adelaide Indie Author Pop-up Store. Karen will be signing her books at Greenlight Comics, 18 Stephens Place, Adelaide. 
Links to Buy
She is also on Goodreads:

About the author
Karen J Carlisle. lives in Adelaide with her family and the ghost of her ancient Devon rex cat. She is a writer, artist, gardener, chocoholic, and tea lover. Karen writers speculative fiction including steampunk, Victorian mystery, and fantasy.
She currently writes full time and can be found plotting fantastical, piratical, or airship adventures.
You can check out more of her books and art on her website

Places to find Karen’s Writing:

Social Media:




  1. I don't drink wine either, though my rellies do own a vineyard in the Adelaide Hills. :)

  2. I have to admit, as much as I like wine, it doesn't always agree with me.

  3. Interesting interview Karen, enjoyed reading about your books.

  4. I'm not a big wine drinker either, but I might have a glass. :)

    1. That reminds me of the meme with a person drinking wine from a fishbowl - it's just one glass.

      Thanks for stopping by Chris. Nice to see your new book is released.